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Using Enterprise Architects to Increase the Success Rate of SAFe® Projects

by Daniel Lambert

Any organization with a digital transformation success rate lower than 50%[i] will find that they can improve this ratio substantially if they start using their enterprise architecture task force differently. To increase their value in an organization that uses SAFe® or any other sophisticated agile methodology, enterprise architects need to get a lot better at focusing on providing value to clients, patients, partners, key managers, and key employees using detailed value streams with identified participating stakeholders, enabling business capabilities, and last but not least required information concepts.

Figure 1 - Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®).png

The Importance of Value Streams

Up to very recently, the examination of value streams was neglected by most enterprise architects. With the popularity of SAFe®, as shown in Figure 1 above, and a few other sophisticated agile methodologies, many enterprise architects have started using value streams. Aside from delivering a value proposition made of one or more products and/or services, value streams have many benefits.

Value streams assist business managers to visualize and prioritize the impact of their strategic plans, manage more effective internal and external stakeholder engagement, and deploy new and more successful business solutions. Value Streams also provide a value-based, client-driven context for business analysis and planning and they finally offer a context for more effective business requirements analysis, case management, and solution design. In brief, mapping a value stream will lead to a more effective business and operating model, if they are not confused with value chains, lean value streams, or business processes.

Participating Stakeholders

Initially, value streams were used to identify participating internal and external stakeholders. Still today, the number one reason why value streams are used is to find participating stakeholders, according to my clients. In Figure 2 below, you have a value stream entitled “Select Financial Instruments to Trade” for the triggering stakeholder “Investment Manager”. Each one of its 5 value stages has at least one participating stakeholder. They are financial instrument analysts, investment managers, and security traders. At least one participating stakeholder of each type should be selected as a subject matter expert in identifying capability gaps, required information concepts gaps, and requirements.

Figure 2 - Value Stream with Parcipating Stakeholders.png

Enabling Capabilities

The most innovative and business-oriented enterprise architects rapidly discovered that finding enabling capabilities of a value stream, as shown in Figure 3 below, could also prove to be very useful in guiding an organization’s efforts in prioritizing its business transformation resources.  

Business capabilities still today are the main anchor of an organization’s planning ecosystem because of their stability over time. They can be cross-mapped to at least 10 domains of interest, as shown in Figure 4 below[ii]. They are as followed:

  1. People and business units,

  2. Business processes (including lean value streams),

  3. Information concepts (sometimes called business objects, data objects, or simply information),

  4. Resources (IT systems, applications, micro-services, physical and intangible assets),

  5. Products and Services,

  6. Initiatives and Projects,

  7. Requirements, and

  8. Strategies and Tactics, and finally

  9. Value Stream Mapping.

Figure 3 - Value Stream with Enabling Capabilities.png

For maximum efficiency, it is important to precisely select the exact business capability at the right level. Enterprise architects should not limit themselves to selecting level 1 or 2 business capabilities. Why should you select a level 2 capability, when only 2 out of 10 of its children’s level 3 capabilities enable the value stream that you are examining?  

Figure 4 - Business Capability Alignments.png

Required Information Concepts

Organizations collect a lot of data. A lot of this data has no current use. They have an awful time making sense of all their data and they sometimes do not collect the right data. The quickest way to find useful and pertinent data is to use value streams and to ask yourself what the minimal required information is to provide value to clients, patients, partners, key managers, and key employees, as shown in Figure 5 below.  I know only one enterprise architect that uses a value stream to find required information concepts. He’s the one that inspired me to use this methodology in my training and consulting practice. This methodology is not yet mandatory to get your TOGAF Business Architecture Certification. I would not be surprised to have a fast-growing number of enterprise architects using this methodology soon.

Figure 5 - Value Stream with Required Information Concept.png

The Value of Fine-Tuning SAFe® with Enterprise Architecture

The 3 common root causes for the failure of large business transformation initiatives are the lack of transparency, inadequate transformation management methods, and management disengagement, as mentioned below:

  • Lack of transparency. Leaders of business transformation initiatives or programs don't have a broad view of the firm’s strategies and are unable to prioritize among all their programs those that really matter. They end up having too many projects for the resources allocated to them.

  • Too-long delivery cycles. Traditional transformation management methods drive programs into long delivery cycles. Inflexible, multi-year detailed milestones determined in the early stage of programs are not adequate for agile companies.

  • Management Disengagement. Top management must resist the urge to delegate their key responsibilities to project managers, who should be responsible for planning, alignment, and problem resolution but usually lack a deep understanding of the evolving strategies of the organization.

 

Enterprise architects should get involved in agile projects in any one of these 5 dimensions: Strategic and tactical dimension, finance and priority determination, program and project planning delivery, project delivery regular check-ups, and measurement of success[iii]:

  • Strategic and Tactical. Enterprise architects can assist management in disseminating and translating business strategies and goals at a higher frequency into tactics and objectives at lower levels and horizontally everywhere in the organization.

  • Finance and Priority Determination. Customer-driven value streams and measured business capabilities are very useful to define the financing and priority levels of agile programs and projects.

  • Program and Project Planning Delivery. Using elements from their enterprise architecture model, EAs can accelerate the definition of requirements, epics, and user stories that are necessary for the delivery and execution of programs, projects, and sprints. Furthermore, in large agile programs, there will frequently be redundant projects and sub-projects. EAs have the necessary expertise to detect them.

  • Project Delivery Regular Check-Ups. During the agile project delivery, EAs should get involved to ensure that regular check-ups from key members of the agile delivery team are made, including product managers, system architects, release train engineers and business owners.

  • Measurement of Success. Your application is performing according to specs and is available 99.99% of the time. You’ve delivered your agile projects on time and within budget, and yet you’ve failed at reaching your business outcomes. In such cases, EAs can be instrumental in finding out what when wrong and finding appropriate ways to make sure that it happens less often.

Figure 6 - Architecture Alignment and Collaboration to SAFe®.png

In SAFe® for example, Architects need to get involved at all levels of the agile activities from very strategic activities to the more tactical ones, as shown in Figure 6 above. Enterprise architects should get involved most of the time at the following activity levels: portfolio management, value stream management, and product management. Solution architects also play an essential role in SAFe®. They are involved in product management and ownership and interact with value stream engineers, release train engineers, and sometimes scrum masters. As for the system or application architects, they are engaged with product ownership and software development and testing, and they work with release train engineers and scrum masters.

 

Including business and enterprise architecture within your agile practice will usually generate very high ROI. The benefits of implementing a grounded enterprise and business architecture out ways a lot its costs. Benefits include strategic value contribution, strategic and tactical delivery improvement, and operational agile delivery improvement.

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[i] According to the Boston Consulting Group and Harvard Business Review, the success rate of digital transformation projects is much lower than 50%. For additional information, you may want to read this article entitled “Increasing your Digital Transformation Success Rate with Enterprise Architecture”.

[ii] For additional information about business capabilities, you are invited to read this article entitled “How to Build a Grounded Capability Model”. 

[iii] For additional information, you may want to view this video entitled “How Architecture Helps Agile Projects Hit Business Targets”.

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